Friday, January 25, 2013

A friend in Need

One day in the dead of winter,
After an unsettled night
During severe depression,
I wake up and hear in my mind
"You have to go for a walk'
From a voice that was not mine.
So I go looking for the wilderness,
With a picnic and storms threatening.

Heading down into the dark,
I stroke feathery moss neon bright,
See so much alive and vibrant
Growing from the ground.
I grab strong branches,
With old ivy clinging.
Hanging on like a toddler
Wrapped around its mother,
On roots tiny like centipede's legs.
Giving a coat of green,
That will smother when leaves appear.

As ivy ages the leaves change;
From sharp, pointed,
they become softer and round.
I creep deeper and deeper into a forest,
Climbing through straggly roots
And spongy leaves,
Making sure I'm completely hidden.
Surely it's unlikely
There will be psychos hiding out here?
I see a small furry creature
Dash into his front door,
Afraid of me.
I say, "hello" to him
And hope he doesn't mind
Me peeing in his front garden.

Did you know
It is possible to feel the summer in winter?
You don't have to worry
About saving every last penny 
To escape to a place in the sun!
Sitting at home miserable,
Cursing the weather to hell,
Moaning about it
To anyone who'll listen.

When you walk a long way
Your body warms you.
In the dull light, the sun shines
In the bright orange bark
Of a sawn off log,
Bumpy rings rippling outwards.
A threatening roar,
Turns out to be a stream overflowing,
Rushing and crashing with energy:

Following it,
To see where it goes,
Charging effortlessly down,
Cascading over a ledge,
With a hidden cave underneath,
To trickle an awkward path,
Through boulders and pebbles,
Towards the ever present sea:
Still today.

Trying to climb 
A bumpy hill in the mud
Is a challenge.
Forces you onto your hands 
and knees sometimes,
Scrambling like a beetle,
Laughing at myself.
My dog dances up
Much more elegantly.
I watch the way he goes
And follow knowing,
It's probably the most sensible path.

I emerge innocent and happy,
Passing the only other traveller
I say, "lovely day".
He replies, "Scottish eh?"
Makes me laugh: 
Mad dogs and a Scottish woman
Out in the winter mist.

Sitting at the peak
Eating a cheese and pickle roll
(My dog whinging for handouts)
A crow hangs above us noisily,
Swirling and diving.
My dog furious now,
Bounces around growling angrily.
I'm thankful for my loyal spaniel.

The sky darkens, I'm getting cold,
Time to go home.
Walking across the field shoe gazing,
I'm stomping through tiny chocolate drops.
The place is covered in rabbit poo.
Much worse than our grey streets;
Filthy piles of it everywhere,
Gets everyone raging
And putting posters in their windows,
A bright yellow bark of disapproval,
"I say NO to dog fowling!".
Good for you!

I wonder what you would say
In the country,
When you're up to your knees in it?
"Lovely day"
You would probably say.

In honour of Rabbie Burns and the Combe Haven Defenders:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A walk through Combe Haven Valley

Woodland, farmland and marshland will be destroyed in the making of the Bexhill to Hastings link road.

Shadow of trees from Decoy Pond Wood on frosty grass.

Skull in the field.

A found wreath of oak leaves.

Decoy Pond.

Decoy Pond Wood.

Decoy Pond Wood next to farmland.

View North towards Crowhurst. The nearest road is two fields away from here and much further towards the South. Decoy Pond camp is on the right. The road will run right through here.

Site of base camp. After the protestors set up camp the security fences were put up around the area, protesters were slowly removed and the trees have been felled.

Badger sets were closed off. Although badgers are protected under law a license can allow this to happen.

View from and towards the railway bridge built in 1900. The line was closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching Axe, This old line would make an excellent cycle path linking with the new path from Hastings to Glyne Gap.

An empty tree house and shelter on the ground from base camp. This tree has now gone. But protesters were successful in delaying the work.

View over Combe Haven Valley.

View over Combe Haven Valley with one of the many felled trees. The proposal is for a road that will run through here, 2,000 homes and a 50,000 sq m business park space at a cost of £100 million. The site floods in winter.

Decoy pond Camp.
Decoy Pond Camp.

Decoy pond stream next to camp and a young woman abseiling down from a tree house.

Decoy Pond Camp.

A gardener who has travelled miles to protest. The camp is about peaceful resistance and has a no alcohol and drugs policy. Locals have been dropping off food and supplies and many of them are acting as "legal observers". There are equal numbers of men and women protesting of all ages. I spoke to a lady who is a care worker who climbed a tree in spite of arthritis and cemented herself to another protester. She's never done anything like it before.
Police approach camp. When we were there there was no conflict and everyone was polite and respectful.

East Sussex County Council's proposal.
Comb Haven Defender's response.
and Hastings Alliance
Friends of the Earth: 4 reasons not to build the road.
Hastings has some of the most deprived estates in England.
Campaign for Better Transport on the "Roads to Nowhere".

Thursday, January 17, 2013

We're on a Road to Nowhere

Combe Haven Valley with one of many felled trees.
Letter to Amber Rudd MP Hastings & Rye about the Bexhill to Hastings road development.

Dear Amber,

Today I had a walk around Combe Haven and the site where the new road is to be developed. Even on a cold, frosty winters day it was stunning, tranquil, not much sound except the birds and the chainsaws slicing through the ancient trees that they would be resting in.

I only recently heard of the proposed road development even though I've lived in Hastings for ten years and take an interest in what goes on in this beautiful region. I feel that if I had fully understood the proposals I would liked to have had the opportunity to discuss alternatives. As well as other ways £100m could be spent to regenerate the area.

I am from Scotland originally and on visits back there I have been very impressed with the many developments to green spaces that are happening. One I visited recently is Mugdock Country Park. There is a visitor centre, events all year round, workshops, rangers who visit local schools to help with the Government funded Eco Schools campaign But the most stunning thing is the miles of uninterrupted countryside, lakes and marsh land. Scotland's beautiful landscapes are world famous and bring in a huge number of tourists. This is another very exciting development:

I noticed that the area where the trees have started to be cut down is where the old Crowhurst to Bexhill rail link used to be. I read with interest the history of the rail closures under the 1963 Conservative Government. I was thinking that this old railway line would have made a perfect cycle path with the trees either side creating shade on a hot sunny day (which we are very lucky to have plenty of down here). It could have linked to the new cycle path that goes from Hastings to Glyne Gap and would have been a lovely ride through an unspoilt, unique landscape up to Crowhurst pub and Crowhurst community farm shop. It would be a safe, gentle cycle path that families and inexperienced cyclists could use. Many people these days are looking for holidays where they can exercise and enjoy some peace and relaxation and I think Bexhill with the Delawarr and the lovely new seafront, the new children's playground and improved cycling and recreational facilities could provide this and would be a big attraction. It would be great to see a heritage site here with educational facilities as I read that an archeologist claims that the world famous battle of Hastings was not at Battle but was very close to or on the route of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road. There is nothing like this anywhere in the region.

In my time living in Hastings I have noticed that an issue that people struggle with is the long train journey to London. I know a lot of mothers who cope with children on their own most of the week while their husbands go up to London for work and stay there because the commute is too long. It is known that the fast train to London from Brighton boosted local economy and house prices shot up.I have heard rumours that there might be a fast train link. Is this something that will ever happen?

I don't drive and as a family we only recently got our first car. So for the past ten years I have been using public transport. I had to get two buses to get from my home to Glyne Gap swimming pool when my son was young. I preferred to go there because the water was too cold at the Hastings pool. A train station at Glyne Gap would have been so handy for me as I live near to Ore Station. If I'd had this option I would have used it. Also the bus that takes me from town to my home comes only once an hour. I had to time everything carefully. If I missed it I had to walk up to the West hill pushing the buggy with all the extra swimming things; quite a steep climb. It's so much nicer having the car to get about to these places now but if I had the option I would use public transport and cycle as much as possible. Are there any plans to improve public transport in Hastings and Bexhill?

I'm really saddened that the beautiful area I visited today is going to have a road and housing and another retail park. I'm concerned that this will be competition for businesses already existing in Hastings and St. Leonards, especially the town centres. I have noticed there are some empty shops in Hastings and St. Leonards as it is. And some new shops and cafes struggle and don't last long. Also, there already is a large retail park at Glyne Gap, Bexhill. I noticed that the bowling alley recently closed there. Since Bexhill has a mostly elderly population I was wondering who would work in the proposed new retail development? Or are you hoping people will drive there from Hastings?

Finally, I wanted to let you know about another issue that is affecting life for myself and a number of others; there are problems at Bembrook playground, off Old London Road, Hastings,  with dogs running about off leads, being thrown down the slide and biting the flying fox. Many children have become terrified of dogs because of their experience of having a dog run up to them there. I have seen children develop phobias because of it. Also my dog was attacked by a dangerous breed there but was lucky just to have his ear punctured. A number of mums, myself included, complained about this. It is used by parents and children of Dudley, Sacred Heart and Castledown Infant Schools. It can get quite busy once school comes out on a nice day and this is when the frightening incidents with dogs have occurred. Also, one little girl wandered by a couple who were injecting drugs on a bench at the time the schools come out and the mother had to run after her. I have seen drug paraphernalia lying around as well as broken glass. This is another lovely big green space that many people worry could have discarded needles etc. I and a few others have written asking for help for the problems here. We were visited by a Ranger who said he didn't have resources to monitor what goes on, that there were only a few Rangers and they were already busy with Hastings Country Park. This is a shame as it's a job that's clearly needed. I really hope a child isn't injured. It would be nice to be able to visit this playground without so many frightening incidents, hostile encounters and dangerous situations. Is this something that you take seriously and if so can you give me a solution?

I work as a freelance illustrator for one of the UK's best-selling children's magazines. I also volunteer at my son's school helping the children with gardening projects and am applying for funding to help the school make better use of their outdoor space and to encourage outdoor learning. I also helped renovate a local Community Centre garden and with Ecominds funding set up a gardening group for people with mental health support needs. Amongst the many benefits, we were helping people who were long term unemployed feel confident enough to go back to work. I have a great interest in horticultural therapy.
And I have a blog here where I am going to write about Coombe Haven and show the photos I took there today:

Yours sincerely,
The Green Lady

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